Even those outside the maritime industry know that it’s full of harsh working conditions that put your body through the wringer. This includes substantial exposure to noise pollution that can have permanent health consequences. Unfortunately, when maritime workers lose their hearing, they are often unable to continue working.
That’s why you need to know your rights as a maritime worker. If you have been injured or made ill by your line of work, let the team at Fuquay Law Firm help you. Call our team at 251-473-4443 to set up a consultation now.
Noise Pollution in the Maritime Industry
The maritime industry is full of sources of noise pollution. This means that those working at sea are often barraged with not just one but multiple types of noise pollution at once, amplifying the negative health effects of loud sounds. The machinery and engines on a ship put out continuous high-decibel noises that assault your ears and affect your sleep.
Those working in container ports are exposed to significant noise caused by cranes and other types of heavy machinery. The sea itself can also contribute to noise pollution, particularly during inclement weather and rough waves.
Those at greatest risk of noise-induced injuries include those who work in the engine room, port workers, and deckhands. These individuals are almost constantly exposed to significant noise, and the more noise pollution you experience, the more likely you are to suffer permanent side effects. However, anyone working in the maritime industry may experience noise-related injuries.
Hearing Loss Caused by Noise Pollution
Noise-induced hearing loss is a devastating outcome for those in this industry. This condition advances gradually, which means that many people don’t even realize that they are affected until they have lost a significant amount of their hearing. Unfortunately, noise-induced hearing damages the hair cells in the inner ear and cannot be reversed. Early signs include ringing and buzzing sounds in the ears, difficulty hearing conversations, and difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds.
Sadly, NIHL is a very common diagnosis in the maritime industry. Those working in this field are much more likely to reach the level of noise exposure needed to cause noise-induced hearing loss. One study looked at hearing loss among commercial fishermen on the Gulf Coast. Interestingly, NIHL did not correlate with age, but there was a clear correlation between NIHL diagnoses and years spent fishing.
What happens to maritime workers who suffer hearing loss? The economic impacts can be profound. As NIHL develops, maritime workers may find it increasingly more difficult to understand supervisors’ instructions, communicate clearly with coworkers, and respond to instructions. Should they become completely deaf or unable to communicate, they may even be unable to work at all. The social costs are also high. Those who struggle with hearing loss may be too embarrassed to seek help, causing them to withdraw socially.
Mitigating the Dangers of Noise Pollution
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, which is part of what makes it such a difficult diagnosis. Stronger protections against noise pollution in the maritime industry could save seafarers’ hearing, but too few vessels and employers utilize these protections.
Modifying equipment and machinery can reduce noise levels. Options include vibration damping, upgrading to quieter equipment, and sound insulation. Workers can also use personal protective equipment to reduce the effects of noise. It’s important to note, though, that PPE on its own does not completely block out noise pollution—it just muffles it. PPE should be used alongside other safety measures.
Worker education and training are also important components of any worker safety program. Maritime workers are more likely to follow safety protocols and use proper PPE if they understand the prevalence of NIHL, what causes it, and its irreversibility. Training should occur not just at the time of hiring, but also periodically throughout a worker’s employment.
Pursue the Compensation You Deserve with Fuquay Law Firm
If you have suffered noise-induced hearing loss or another adverse health effect because of your maritime work, you could be entitled to compensation. The team at Fuquay Law Firm can help you learn more about your options and fight for the compensation you’re owed. Let’s talk about your next steps—call us at 251-473-4443 or send us an overview of your situation online.